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Old 01-19-2014, 10:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
jocoyn
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Default A humbling experience - something for folks to consider when giving training advice

Wanting to be mentored in the use of an ecollar, I spent a few hours this Saturday with a police trainer my team respects. He is responsible for training the K9 officers in his department.

My main problem is that 2.5 year old Beau will just blow me off when offlead at a distance, is not outing the toy, and in general can be a bit too wild to deal with properly at home. He is a lot more of a challenging dog to handle than I have had before. He is also an incredible hunting machine. Not one iota of problems with him being aggressive toward me or others or any nerve issues.

Now, I have had dogs in my life since my childhood in the 60s, with them being GSDs since 1985. I have trained and certified two operational cadaver dogs, Grim who was certified annually 2008-2012 and Beau 2012-present. The certification is a combination of offlead obedience control and scent work. I trained Cyra as a live find dog before that. My neighbors are always amazed at how much better Beau is behaved than their own dogs.

Fast forward. I go in and take the words that are hard to hear but must be heard:

1) You are not being consistent in corrections. Variable reinforcement may work for reward but not for correction.
2) You are not being fair with your corrections. Your dog is warning you he could come up the lead if you push too hard, because he is a soft dog, not a hard dog. Boy did me and my teammate miss that one. So he is taking away my prong and this Friday we are fitting him for a nylon slip collar. [he does not like the kind with the clip]
3) He is upping my standards for precision obedience which he expects. The NAPWDA obedience control test is intended to demonstrate offlead control (heel at different speeds, long down, drop on recall etc.) and ours is good enough to "pass" but we need to tighten it up particularly with Beau.
4) Even on searching, he pointed out some subtle things I am doing with my body language to cue the dog [mind you the hides were totally unknown to me, but changes in my body language while he was working odor]. And Beau is keying in on that body language and looking for it.
5) He showed me some more technique on outing and he will do more on Friday. He does not like having the dog down but wants me to have the dog high so his front legs cant hit the ground and give him the sit command. He has to let go to sit. Correction for noncompliance. With the dog in the down, he is not as clear what the correction is for because he IS down. Then the return to bite the tug is (for now) immediate. We are also switching to a harder stiffer tug (high pressure heater hose with a dowel in it).

Now he does support the use of an ecollar for us, and all his unit dogs use one, but we have a good bit to remedial work before we start using it.

Thought long and hard about posting this but I often see folks giving advice which could mess up a dog they have not even seen when it is clear they, themselves, don't know what they are talking about. I try to stay away from giving training advice and recommend people find a good trainer and only give general SAR advice.

Both Beau and I came back from our day looking at each other like "what just happened?" - it was surreal and hard to explain. Basically, he has been pushing for position (rank) and we are putting me back in control - and nothing he did was harsh or cruel but it will change our relationship. So much to learn. A lot of stuff I already knew intellectually that has not been making its way properly down the lead.

Find a good trainer is all I can say! One on one. Don't take the hard stuff personally. If you want to be the best you can be, you have to check the ego at the door.
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Nancy
www.scsarda.org

Beau -NAPWDA Certified Cadaver Dog
Waiting at the Bridge (italics=GSDs) (hemangiosarcoma=blue):Grim , Cyra, Toby, Rainbow, Linus, Oscar, Arlo & Waggles
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